THE UST Faculty Union (USTFU) has brought its P97-million claim for accumulated hospitalization and medical benefits to the Supreme Court.

USTFU filed a petition for review on certiorari last Dec. 7 to reverse and set aside the July 13 decision and Oct. 19 resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA), which denied a motion for reconsideration filed by union officials.

USTFU stated in its petition that the appellate court’s referral of the case to a voluntary arbitrator “would serve no purpose except to delay the resolution of the valid claims of USTFU and would render useless and put to waste the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission) where UST had actively participated and filed all the pleadings and documentary evidence required.”

The disagreement between the union and the University administration is over how much the latter should contribute annually to a perpetual fund for hospitalization and medical benefits. The union claims that under its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with UST, contributions should be repeated annually on top of new contributions, because of yearly tuition increases.

UST is supposedly “obligated to remit the amount of P2,000,000.00 not only in the first year of the CBA (1996-1997) but also in the subsequent years because the said amount became an integral part of the current or existing tuition fee.” After UST remitted P2 million during the first year of the CBA, it remitted P1 million in the second year, P1 million in the third year, and P4 million in the fourth year, or a total of P8 million.

'Santo subito!'

There is a “glaring deficiency of P17 million in the remittance of UST” to the fund, according to a copy of the USTFU petition obtained by the Varsitarian. Also, from 2001-2002 to 2010-2011, there was an “undistributed” amount of P80 million, bringing the total claim to P97 million.

The petition stated that “the Court of Appeals departed from the usual course of proceedings in referring back the case to voluntary arbitration despite the fact that the parties already fully and exhaustively litigated the case before the labor arbiter and the NLRC which both correctly found in favor of USTFU,” the union said in its filing, a copy of which was obtained by the Varsitarian.

“With due respect, the Honorable Court of Appeals further failed to consider that nothing can be gained by referring this case back to the Voluntary Arbitrator since all issues raised by the parties were already competently resolved by the NLRC.”

USTFU said in its petition that violations of CBA are gross in character and are considered unfair labor practice, beyond the voluntary arbitrator’s jurisdiction. “Clearly therefore, the Labor Arbiter properly assumed jurisdiction over this case,” the petition stated.

USTFU Internal Vice President Rene Tadle said union leaders tried to settle the issue. “However it was the UST administration then that told USTFU “to bring the matter to Court for resolution,” he said.

Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina, UST legal counsel, said the University and USTFU agreed in the CBA that any dispute as to the meaning, application or violation of any provision shall be considered a grievance under Article XIII (Grievance Machinery).

Retrato bilang dokumentaryo

“If no settlement is arrived at the grievance machinery, the dispute will automatically be referred to voluntary arbitration,” Divina told the Varsitarian. “The conduct of proceedings before the Voluntary Arbitrator cannot be considered waste of time as the task of interpreting the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement pertains to it. Thus, its findings will be binding on the parties.”

Meanwhile, Tadle noted that the amount in question is part of the faculty members’ share of tuition increases.

“It is our responsibility as Union officers to protect at all times their interest,” he said, adding that the contested amount is very substantial.

“Certainly, it will go a long way in USTFU’s effort to improve the hospitalization benefit of the faculty.”

Court records showed USTFU demanded P65 million plus interest from then rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P in 2007. Arceo, however, responded that the contributions to the hospitalization fund were only “one-time” allocations and were not meant to “slide” every year.

The case reached the labor arbiter in September 2007. In 2010, the labor arbiter ordered UST to pay only P18 million to the union.

UST and USTFU appealed to the NLRC, which in 2011 ruled in favor of the union and ordered the University administration to pay P80 million plus attorney’s fees. UST subsequently asked the appeals court to review the decisions of the labor arbiter and the NLRC in a petition for certiorari. BERNADETTE D. NICOLAS


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